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Students lobby for skate park

| Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Skateboarders are about as welcome in most places as Dennis the Menace was in Mr. Wilson's rose garden.

On the whole, they are barred from commercial parking lots, nearly all public parks, sidewalks and, depending on the mood of the owner, private property.

That rejection, along with the sport's increasing popularity, has prompted two frustrated North Hills High School students to ask Ross Township commissioners to consider sponsoring the construction of a skate park in the community.

In making their plea to the commissioners Monday night, Anthony Jackson and Andrew Beran pointed out that there is no skate park anywhere in the North Hills.

"Kids have nowhere to skate because they constantly get kicked out of places," Jackson said.

In fact, there are only a handful of skate parks in the Pittsburgh area. And those that are in the area are not convenient to the North Hills, the teens said.

One park is by the Pittsburgh International Airport. There is ShadySkates in Point Breeze and a skate park in McKinley Park in Brookline.

Jackson and Beran, who came to the meeting complete with statistics and cost estimates, said there would be several ways to finance construction of a skate park.

Their cost estimates ranged from $3,000 to $100,000 depending the type.

A cement park would cost more at first but would require little maintenance. But maintenance on a wood-frame skate park would cost as much as $25,000 a year, the two said.

Construction of a park could be underwritten by a corporate sponsor, as has been the case with skate parks in other cities, Beran said. It could be run either by the municipality itself, with admission charged, or as a private enterprise, he said.

Commissioners said they were impressed with the teen-agers' detailed presentation. But they expressed mixed views about whether and when such a park should be built.

"Having a place to skateboard is one of the priorities of many young people," said John Adamczyk, a commissioner who supports building a park.

The commissioners, Adamczyk said, probably will discuss the idea during the next several meetings. But questions of when construction of a skate park might start or even when the board might vote on it were not addressed at Monday's meeting.

"We have to find the money," he said. "That is the most complicated part of this."

There are several publicly owned parks or tracks of land that may be feasible, Adamczyk said.

The most logical site, he said, would be near the Ross Township community center and administration building that is under construction in the community park along Evergreen Road. But that location might be too small for the 10,000 square feet needed for construction of a skate park.

Other commissioners, however, were skeptical about whether a skate park would even be a wise idea for the township.

"It's not a moneymaking opportunity, and it is a huge liability," Commissioner Grant Montgomery said.

Despite its somewhat reckless and daredevil image, skateboarding has a lower rate of injury than other sports, including soccer, basketball, football and volleyball, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The sport is becoming more than a passing fad. Last year, more Americans rode skateboards than played baseball, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.

Yet, because skateboarding has the aura of a subculture and unintelligible jargon associated with it, the sport is belittled by many adults, said Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

"Older people often ask why kids who skateboard are not playing baseball or basketball, the way they did as kids," Thompson said. "But the same people who berate kids for being overweight couch potatoes frequently do not want the same kids to skateboard — an activity that requires focus, persistence and physical stamina."

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